Since we last talked, our reptile collection has shrunk by 20 percent.

A few weeks ago, Jennifer and I bundled up seven snakes and delivered them to their new homes. Jeff and Jenny took our pair of Great Basin Gopher Snakes, the female Western Hognose Snake, Snuggles the Boa Constrictor, the Rosy Boa, and Sam the Ball Python; Stewart got one of our Red Milk Snakes (which promptly turned into a biting machine). With Piss-Boy’s death last month, that brings us down to 32 snakes; further downsizing and expected mortality (I have some old snakes) will take that number down even more in the coming months.

We decided to do this after a lot of careful soul-searching on my part after the embarrassing town council meeting. While we were never ordered to give up any animals, much less the boas and python, it forced me to think a lot harder about what we were keeping, and why. This is what I came up with:

  1. While still important and non-negotiable, reptile keeping is much less fundamental than it was a few years ago. If I’d known about the Shawville by-law when it first came out in 2005, I’d have put up a much bigger fight.
  2. While the town councillors assured us we wouldn’t have much to worry about unless someone filed a complaint, my policy in terms of reptile-keeping has always been to be completely above-board. I want to be able to withstand a raid by animal control or wildlife officers.
  3. While I suspect that the by-law’s ban on boas and pythons isn’t enforceable under provincial law, I don’t feel like testing that in court. (There are people who fight on even when they can’t win; I’ve been known to walk away from fights I can win, simply on a cost-benefit basis, principle be hanged.)
  4. We acquired certain animals (the boa constrictor, the python) for the purpose of doing educational shows. It’s since become abundantly clear that there is no way we have the time to do those shows.
  5. We acquired other animals for breeding. Years later, we have the male hognose dead, the two red milks turning out to be both female, and the Great Basin gophers not having produced an egg in five years. We haven’t had anything hatch successfully in three years. Breeding’s not as important as it used to be.
  6. The experience of other keepers suggested that the fewer animals we kept, the more we’d be able to enjoy them.

We still have one or two other snakes to find homes for (though I’m not going to put an ad up for them until I’m certain, and there are people with a right of first refusal), but getting rid of so many at once eases the urgency to do so. (At the very least, we’ve given away our boas and python, so we can endure any raid or inspection by government agents.)

Will this mean we will have more time to enjoy the remaining 32 snakes? Probably. But there are some other side benefits. For one thing, we’ll save something like $25 a month in frozen rodents. And for another, we’ve managed to retire enough cages that more room has opened up in the snake room. How much room? This much:

New office

Enough cages were removed, once snakes were moved around, that one of the two shelves could be dismantled. This gave us just enough room to put in a bookshelf (for all our reptile books) and — more importantly — Jennifer’s desk. This means that, for the first time, she has a dedicated workspace; she’d previously had a corner of the master bedroom, which was frequently problematic, especially when she had online tutoring in the evenings (when I was frequently dead tired). We also found enough room for her papers and her art supplies; it’s now her office, and the snake room only secondarily.

So, not only does she have enough room to start working on her art projects again (I hope), she’ll also be in there often enough that she’ll be able to observe, handle and generally have fun with the snakes on a more regular basis. And if you’re not doing that, what’s the point of having them? (It’s true: the fewer you have, the more you can enjoy them.)